I was that Kindergarten Mommy who stood sobbing as her child entered the class for the first time, especially Lydia. I missed her big girl chatter and companionship during the day while I was tending to the needs of 2 infants. I didn’t understand how our relationship would change as I let go and she grew up; I didn’t have a pattern for that phase of parenting. But, I learned and so did she. Graciously, Lydia was my first child. Knowing the personalities of the four behind her, I doubt any of them would be as kind to me through this learning curve! Lydia and I have found our way together, like a dance across childhood. She’s helped make me the parent I am now, as much as I’ve helped make her the woman she is becoming.
Once again though, another level of separation has reduced me to tears. This time it’s not nearly as simple as waving to her from across the room. Those early baby steps of separation have led to one massive leap of living apart. It’s now been over 7 weeks since I moved her into college and we moved to Florida. I miss her companionship so badly that at times I physically ache and silent tears flood down my cheeks. Clearly, I don’t understand this phase of parenting. I simply don’t know the steps for this part of our dance yet.
However, I’ve been wisely challenged by my peers to focus on how my daughter is thriving in her new environment. It’s funny because when I shift to viewing our separation through this lens everything looks much different. The truth is that Lydia is thriving! She is growing like crazy, soaking up her independence and maturing at an unbelievable rate. I can hear it in her voice, see it in her pictures, and read it in her blog. Well exceeding her years, she is working out her worldview and presuppositions beautifully and powerfully.
Seven weeks ago we not only left Lydia at college, but we also moved our other four children to Florida. Frankly, they were all convinced we’d lost our minds. There wasn’t much excitement in any of them about a new home, being close to the beach, or new schools. I wouldn’t say we brought them here kicking and screaming, but there were buckets of tears about leaving every single established relationship they’d ever known. Apart from Isabelle, who was modestly curious about a new life, the other 3 toured new schools and meet new teachers with downcast eyes and sorrowful hearts. Ever the cheerleader, I promised them it would all be okay. “Let’s give it 6 weeks before forming an opinion” I’d say over and over and over again. I prayed, constantly: “Lord, I’m sure we’ve heard your voice about this move, but you have to make it alright in their hearts. Help them grow roots quickly!” Not even aware of my words, I was praying over them the concept of thriving.
And they have. All of my children are thriving. Has it been easy? No. The adjustments and stretching in new schools all around have been tough. The homework is heavy and hard. But, make no mistake that everyone is thriving. Michael is making friends and is the teacher’s pet in several classes. The depression and fear that haunted him most of last year is now just a memory. Isabelle is already the stand-out art student (big surprise) and has several solid friendships in the making. She is my companion on the hunt to decorate in coastal chic style and is always happy to join me on a sunset run to the beach. Dennis is playing football, learning to surf, and loves riding his bike around our new neighborhood each evening. You don’t even need to worry that Mr. Social has already developed tons of friends. Rebekah loves her teacher, her school, and (most nights) handles her homework like a champ. She is always game to go anywhere with her Daddy as they explore Sarasota together.
I’m learning the steps for this new phase of parenting, which involves less leading from me and more leading from the young people I’m raising. It all feels so awkward and out of sync right now, but we are getting there! I’m sure there will still but plenty of falling tears ahead, but I have this quiet confidence that this move happened at exactly the right moment in time for every single member of my family. That’s just how my God works. He has this amazing ability to truly work all things together for the good of those who love him (Rom.8:28). We don’t always understand it at the moment, but hindsight shows a marvelous picture of truth and faithfulness. I may miss my daughter and my family, but I’m choosing to grow and occupy this new day more than grieving for what’s behind me. I’m choosing to THRIVE!